This was kinda disturbing to write--might be to read too. It's a thriller. . . enough said.
Annie's flat on her stomach. Her heels kick wildly behind her, toward the sky or toward the man pushing her down. One hand flings behind her, taking impotent swipes in his direction. Wrestling, twisting to free herself. My horse is completely extended beneath me, running in full strength. The moments when all four feet are off the ground, I will it to fly. But it strikes the ground again and again.
My mind races ahead to the side of the lake where a man holds Annie at the water’s edge. Blood drums against my neck. Fury is dammed just behind my eyes. If I could run faster, I would jump from my saddle here and race to her aid. I imagine the crack of his head and his warm blood spilling in payment for the terror Annie feels.
He turns my way. Possibly he hears my horse’s hooves pounding toward him. Maybe his heart tells him he will die here. Likely he misjudges my age of fifteen to not be a threat. Still I’m far enough away that he continues his business, pressing her face in the water. Her fight lessens moment by moment.
Each stride of my horse beats a rhythm to our father’s refusal to pay the ransom to have Annie returned safely. No, I won’t pay. No, they won’t hurt her. No, I won’t be blackmailed. The rhythm has played through my thoughts a hundred times.
The man shoves her face deeper into the mud when he stands and flees across the grass, toward a far off stand of willows.
“Annie!” I leap from my seat. Her legs are still. Her body doesn’t move. Her blonde hair floats on the surface in a perfect halo. When I pull her from the water, she doesn’t respond. Mud cakes her nose, mouth, eyes. There’s no rise at all for breath. She’s dead.
Though for an instant, I’m stunned. She’s dead—go! I remount my horse and follow the man whose atrocity has set his own punishment. I catch him before he enters the trees and ram my boot into the back of his neck as my horse lopes past him. He thuds to the mossy dirt. I turn for another pass, this time catching the heel of my boot on the man’s nose. He falls again.
He isn’t dead. I drag him behind my horse back to the edge of the water. Tie his arms with his bloody shirt and pull his pants below his knees to cinch them there. And wait.
His face bleeds from his nose and mouth and various cuts. His chest rises and falls but his eyes are shut. I wait. My horse grazes on the tender grass and sips water. When his eyelids flutter, I move to his side. In minutes, he seems somewhat coherent. A rope fills his mouth and ties behind his head.
Leaning close to his ear, I tell him what he didn’t care about. “Annie was my sister. She was pure and precious, and you are going to die for your crime against her.” I drag him by the hair into the water. The blood from his head leaches into the lapping waves. His feeble state makes him too weak to free himself. Placing one hand on his forehead and the other on his neck, I slowly push his head below the surface. Face up—I want him to watch me as he dies.
His hips and back wrestle to lift his head, but I hold it steadily on the bottom. Until his twisting stops. Until the bubbles stop. Until I no longer see his grimace in the murky water.